Each week since the legislative session has started, I've tried to keep you up to date with what PROMO has been doing in Jefferson City. So far there's only been good news to report - a friendlier administration, stronger support for Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA) and Safe Schools, and excellent prospects for hearings on those bills.
Unfortunately this week I have some bad news to report for those who value equality, good government and rational decision-making.
For those not as familiar with our first out lesbian to hold office in the State House, let me introduce Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford from the 59th District in St. Louis City. Jeanette is a tireless advocate not just for our community, but also for workers' rights, children's rights and families in poverty. Jeanette directed a statewide grassroots anti-poverty organization from 1991-2000, served on the governor's task force on welfare reform and was consulted by the Clinton White House on poverty issues in 1996. Jeanette is also a graduate of the Eden Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, and she is a Sunday School teacher at her church. Her partner Dorothy is a hospice chaplain and recently ordained minister. Dorothy and Jeanette celebrate their 25th anniversary this July.
I wanted to give you a bit of background on Rep. Oxford because what's been happening is unbelievable to those who know her.
Jeanette has served on the House committee that focuses on children and family issues for the past four years and made that her number one pick for a committee assignment again this year after her re-election to a third term in November. Democratic leadership put her name forward and intended to designate her Ranking Member since no other veteran member from the Democratic side of the aisle chose to return this year. However, in mid-January when Jeff Brooks, Speaker Ron Richard's chief of staff, announced which assignments had come through, he told Democratic Caucus staff that Rep. Oxford was being bumped from Children and Families because "some of our members find her highly offensive".
Offensive! There's only one thing in this situation that's offensive, and it's not Rep. Oxford. You can follow more on the story by clicking here.
Jeanette spent the next two weeks advocating for herself with Rep. Cynthia Davis, Chair of Children and Families, and Speaker Richard's office, only to be told on Jan. 29 that they refused to change the decision. This is not rational decision-making or good government, because that leaves the committee without a veteran member from the Democratic side of the aisle to bring "institutional memory" to the committee process this year.
If Jeanette Mott Oxford, a woman who has spent her life as a community organizer advocating for the needs of children and families, a duly-elected public official, and arguably the most eminently qualified member of the Missouri legislature to speak on behalf of children and families, is ejected from a Missouri House committee because she is "highly offensive," whose job is safe?
Ironically, Speaker Richard and Rep. Davis have made an irrefutable case for why the protections called for under MONA are absolutely necessary because no one's job is safe in the state of Missouri if you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, even if you are a member of the Missouri legislature.
So here's what Jeanette and I would like you to do. We'd like you to pledge $10 or more to PROMO right now. For the first $10 you pledge, we'll send a THANK YOU CARD in your name to Speaker Richard. For $20, we'll send a card to Rep. Davis as well. For $100, we'll send each five cards. Click here to get started. We want Speaker Richard and Rep. Davis to know what they have done to prove that all Missourians need equal protection under the law.
Please help by forwarding this message on to your friends and family and asking them to join the fight. We want to bury these two desks in the Capitol under a mountain of Thank You cards. No one's rights are safe if anyone's rights are threatened.
On the OFFENSIVE for equality,